Rice Lake petitions WIAA to join Middle Border Conference for footballMonths after saying they were happy in the Big Rivers Conference, the Rice Lake school administration has changed its mind. New Richmond school officials were informed recently that Rice Lake wants to be moved into the Middle Border Conference, for football only.
By: Dave Newman - New Richmond News, Pierce County Herald
NEW RICHMOND - Months after saying they were happy in the Big Rivers Conference, the Rice Lake school administration has changed its mind.
New Richmond school officials were informed recently that Rice Lake wants to be moved into the Middle Border Conference, for football only.
Rice Lake submitted this request to the WIAA in late May. But nobody at Rice Lake or the WIAA took the time to notify New Richmond of the request until recently.
New Richmond Athletic Director Casey Eckardt has been in contact with the WIAA on the issue. He was told there won’t be any significant discussion on the issue until the WIAA area meeting, which will be held on Sept. 27 in Rice Lake.
Deb Hauser, the WIAA associate director in charge of conference realignment, said having New Richmond and Rice Lake swap conferences would be the easiest solution to the problem. She said having Rice Lake and New Richmond in the same conference would create two odd-numbered conferences and it would make scheduling non-conference games for both conferences very difficult.
Rice Lake’s decision to petition into the MBC is a 180-degree turn from several months ago. When conference realignment was discussed last March, Rice Lake was given the option of asking out of the BRC. Eckardt said Rice Lake Athletic Director Steve Salisbury and the Rice Lake coaches “would like to stay in the Big Rivers.”
Rice Lake’s request did not specifically ask to trade places with New Richmond. Rice Lake’s request asked the WIAA for relief from its current situation. Eckardt said all options would be explored. He was not in favor of putting New Richmond in the BRC for football at this time. He said Rice Lake has made the WIAA football playoffs six times in the past 10 years, while New Richmond has reached the playoffs twice in that span.
“All they’d be doing is switching one problem for another problem,” Eckardt said. “I was truly surprised (by their request.)”
Eckardt said this isn’t an issue that is going to disappear. He said, if current trends continue, New Richmond’s enrollment will climb above 1,000 students at the high school. When that time comes, a New Richmond shift into the BRC might be more difficult to deny. Last year Rice Lake had a high school enrollment of 796, while New Richmond’s enrollment stood at 858. Rice Lake is the only school in the BRC with an enrollment below 1,000.
Salisbury said he didn’t think swapping Rice Lake and New Richmond is an ideal solution to the situation either. Salisbury called Rice Lake “the poster child” for the football district realignment proposal that was defeated last spring. He said enrollment gaps in the BRC, MBC and Heart O’North Conference show that realignment for football conferences is needed all over the western part of the state.
“The switching with New Richmond was not our idea,” Salisbury said. “That was brought up by Deb (Hauser) to me.”
Salisbury said the 2009 football season caused Rice Lake to look for a change. He said the Warriors finished 3-4 in the BRC, failing to make the playoffs. Salisbury said he and the Rice Lake football coaches looked at some of the Division 3 teams that did make the playoffs and felt the Rice Lake team was better than many of them.
“Bottom line, this is a spinoff of the defeat of the district proposal,” Salisbury said.
If a change is made, Rice Lake wants it effective next fall.